From the Editors: The In-Depth Genealogist would like to thank Helen Spencer for being our guest blogger this Saturday! Helen’s insights, ephemera, and nostalgia are things that we know will resonate with you as it did with us. Please be sure to leave her comments of thanks, and after you’ve read her thoughts be sure to visit her website, SaveEveryStep.com.
This is my father. He is actually as wise as he looks. He is 78 years old. I want to tell you about my Dad because he is still alive. It’s that simple.
My beloved Mum died 6 years ago, very suddenly, leaving us bereft and in disarray. She was, like so many other matriarchs, the ‘glue’ in our family. The organiser, the decision maker, the heart and soul, the ‘telephoner’, and the open arms of the family.
A few shorts weeks after we lost Mum, I discovered that I was pregnant with my youngest son. This was a bitter-sweet discovery. I realised that my two children would never really know their grandmother, and that she was likely to become ‘irrelevant’ to them – just a faded face in an old-fashioned photograph. I also realised that I had never asked my mother, well…anything at all about her life before we kids came along. I had been completely self-absorbed as a child and young woman, failing to recognise the importance of the stories which my parents held within.
The loss of a parent is the catalyst for memory. I found myself absorbed in old photographs, cine film, old school work that my brother and I had brought home which our parents had treasured and saved for so many years. I re-lived old family holidays, even taking my sons back to those places for which I felt such sweet nostalgia.
As the days progressed, a further startling realisation came to me. I too, now a 40-something mother of two, held stories within. I have lived and no doubt my tales could raise a few eyebrows! “I have watched Prince Charles marry Lady Diana, I have worn bell-bottom jeans, I have been to a school without computers, and I have even had other boyfriends before I married your dad.”
If I didn’t make an effort to preserve those memories which are within living memory, then my own children would be deprived of a legacy. I had to act.
And so I return to my Dad. He is still here, and still very much treasured by his children and grandchildren. His stories are intact, but no longer just within. He has written a few memoirs, at my request, and filled in the gaps of my Mother’s life story.
I will leave you with an extract from his notes. I encouraged my oldest son to read this, since I knew that he would be baffled by the content. A 21st century boy cannot read about life during Second World War England without it resembling a scene from a movie or a video game. Yet this is Living Memory, the words of the grandfather he can look in the eyes and touch.
“……Looking back, home was pretty basic – coal fire, no hot water, no washing machine etc., bath, basin and a boiler – outside for the WC! Washing was on a dolly tub and mangle, but we did have a wireless and later record player.
The Baker came daily in a horse drawn wagon. ‘Bob’ the baker’s horse used to pull up outside our house and stand quietly whilst the baker went on his round in the Grove. If we were really lucky, Bob would pee for us and we would delight in seeing it stream down the Grove until it found its way in to a drain! What fun!
The Milkman came daily and used measures and a churn – also horse-drawn.
Mom worked at the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) post behind the shops in Merritt’s Brook Lane – guess it was after Dad died in ’41 when Mom had to work..(4 kids)
School – The teachers we had, I guess, were there because they were too old to go to War. The women were nearly all unmarried – probably following WWI and the lack of marriageable aged men.
School uniform Grammar school (1947) – cap, school badge on a jacket, cut down men’s trousers. Bullied once that I can remember. They called us the ‘New bugs’ (me in non standard uniform was an easy target).
Childhood was wonderful – no worries! Mom fed and watered us. Absolute freedom to play and wander at will.”
Perhaps we all need to find a place to capture the times through which we have lived? Time has wings, after all, and we so quickly become ancient history to our children.
Helen Spencer is Founder of SaveEveryStep.com, a family life stories website. She Blogs about family nostalgia and all things retro at http://saveeverystep.
If you are looking for a resource to help you capture, preserve and even share your family memories for free, then www.SaveEveryStep.com may be for you. There you can lay out the events in the life of any (and all) family members on a horizontal timeline, re-visit those nostalgic times, add your narrative and media, and keep it safe in the family ‘time-vault’ until required.